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Local authority secures court approval for vaccination of boy in face of parental objections

A boy subject to an interim care order must be vaccinated in line with the schedule recommended by the National Health Service despite his parents’ objections, the High Court has ruled.

In AB (Childhood Vaccination) [2021] EWHC 1581 (Fam) Mr Justice Williams said that nothing in evidence submitted by the parents outweighed the medical benefit to two-and-a-half years old AB of being vaccinated.

The case was brought by a county council after parents SB and LH argued that AB should receive different vaccines and to a different schedule from that recommended by the NHS.

The local authority has had AB in its care since July 2020 due to a combination of emotional abuse through exposure to domestic abuse, neglect arising from allegations in respect of the mother’s mental health and allegations of inappropriate sexualised behaviour.

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The council proposed that AB should have vaccinations in accordance with the Public Health England/NHS guidelines.

His parents argued that AB was born in the USA and was not given any vaccinations prior to his return to the UK.

They had kept poor records leading to confusion over what vaccinations AB later received in the UK. He may also have had some vaccinations in Malaysia.

SB feared AB would be harmed by vaccines that are not necessary for him and may contain aluminium.

She also argued that a rubella vaccine was unnecessary as the disease was not a direct threat to AB and vaccination would be for the benefit of the population at large rather than AB personally.

Concern about aluminium arose from material issued by an organisation named Baby Jabs.

The judge said: “The local authority and the guardian both support the administration of a schedule of vaccines including making up missed vaccines in accordance with the NHS/PHE recommended schedule.

“They do not accept that any of the objections put forward have any merit or that the parents' proposal would better promote AB's welfare.”

He said the parents had presented no evidence that AB had any contraindications to the proposed NHS vaccination schedule.

While both parents had stressed that their concerns did not arise from the discredited work of Dr Andrew Wakefield on links between the MMR jab and autism, “parts of the mother's statement clearly do arise from an unfounded fear based on alleged dangers of the MMR”.

The judge said nothing in what the parents told him “provides any credible evidential foundation” for concerns about aluminium.

Williams J said the mother's contention that the NHS PHE schedule was “determined by cost rather than medical benefit would seem to be unsupported by evidence – it would appear to be the most effective way to deliver the individual and public health benefits of vaccinations on a large scale”.

He rejected the mother’s concerns about the polio vaccine, noting: “That vaccination does not protect him from others he may come in contact with, it protects him if he travels in the world where he may be exposed, and it protects others.

“The fact that polio is not a direct risk at present in the UK misses the point of why it is not and also the more important point of the protection it gives from possible exposures.

“There is a welfare benefit to a child in being vaccinated which goes beyond the purely medical benefits. They are part of a communal response to the serious dangers posed by these diseases. There is a clear welfare benefit to being part of that communal response and to avoid the position where he become the cause of an infection in a vulnerable person.”

He concluded that AB should have the vaccinations recommended by his GP and allowed seven days for the parents to clarify what vaccinations AB received in Malaysia.

Mark Smulian

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